Eng­land re­store pride and par­ity to fin­ish se­ries on a high

Broad and Leach excel to se­cure 2-2 Ashes draw Smith dis­missed for 23 by bril­liant Stokes catch

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Fifth Specsavers Ashes Test - Scyld Berry CRICKET JOUR­NAL­IST OF THE YEAR at the Oval

Not many creations born in Septem­ber 1882 are alive and vi­brat­ing 137 years later but the Ashes are. Af­ter this se­ries ended 2-2 – the only such out­come save in 1972 – tick­ets for the Bris­bane Test in Novem­ber 2021 will soon be sell­ing like hot burg­ers.

The con­test be­tween Eng­land and Aus­tralia is as fierce as ever. If proof were needed, it came on the fourth evening when Eng­land were bound to win and level the se­ries, yet a duel en­sued be­tween Matthew Wade and Jofra Archer which was as fe­ro­cious as if they had been fir­ing can­nons at each other point-blank.

Archer hit Wade, Wade hit Archer, and the ver­bals, balls, stares and glares were fly­ing ev­ery­where. Yet an hour later both sides were shaking hands and, while re­lieved they can rest their feet af­ter the most intense of sum­mers, se­cretly savouring the prospect of do­ing it all again in the next round in Aus­tralia.

It was a bril­liant per­for­mance by Eng­land to lift them­selves off the floor of dis­ap­point­ment, where they had landed last Sun­day af­ter Aus­tralia had gone 2-1 up at Old Traf­ford and re­tained the Ashes. It had to be in or­der to over­come Steve Smith and Aus­tralia’s fast bowlers.

But they were given a helping hand by Tim Paine, who sent Eng­land in to bat; and Aus­tralia can hardly be ac­cused of mak­ing the most of their mer­cu­rial left-armer Mitchell Starc. It was good for cricket, how­ever, that Aus­tralia’s at­tri­tional at­ti­tude to pace bowl­ing, in­im­i­cal to spon­tane­ity, did not ul­ti­mately tri­umph.

Day four it­self could hardly have gone closer to perfection for Eng­land’s play­ers, given they were 2-1 down, and sup­port­ers. Stu­art Broad be­gan it by club­bing a cou­ple of sixes off Pat Cum­mins, then a cou­ple of Aus­tralian open­ers, so that although the open­ing part­ner­ship was only 18, it was Aus­tralia’s high­est of this se­ries.

Only if David Warner had eluded Broad’s shack­les could Aus­tralia have reached their tar­get of 399, and he pushed hard hands in front of his body yet again, to be caught in the slips. The South African all­rounder Trevor Goddard alone has been such a bunny for an Eng­land bowler: in 1960 Brian Statham dis­missed Goddard seven times, as Broad did Warner.

It has been a low-scor­ing se­ries over­all, for top-or­der bats­men es­pe­cially, be­cause the Dukes ball has seamed and swung, not only when new. But it was the an­gle of at­tack which dis­sected Warner’s de­fence. Broad, from round the wicket, dis­missed left-han­ders 16 times, seven right-han­ders.

Smith en­tered at noon. Ten min­utes later he changed his gloves. He had never made a Test hun­dred in the fourth in­nings. But Smith did

not even ex­tend his record of nine con­sec­u­tive scores of 50-plus in Ashes in­nings – and he would not have been hu­man if he had saved his best till last.

Ear­lier this sum­mer Eng­land had tried hav­ing Smith edge to a fine leg-slip, but this time they al­lowed for him to get most of his bat on the ball and he was su­perla­tively caught by Ben Stokes, div­ing to his left.

A fair re­flec­tion of Smith’s tal­ent was his ag­gre­gate of 774 runs at 110; and so too his 12 slip catches, al­most twice as many as the next out­fielder. A few boos ac­com­pa­nied Smith as he walked from the field; by the time he reached the steps to the dress­ing rooms his re­cep­tion was wor­thy of a world-class crick­eter, who has done due pe­nance, and who has ex­tended the pa­ram­e­ters of bat­ting with his un­ortho­doxy.

Jack Leach had Mar­nus Labuschagn­e stumped when lung­ing for­ward, but Wade was master­ful in us­ing his feet to spin, and un­daunted dur­ing his duel with Archer in his eight-over spell af­ter tea. It made spec­tac­u­lar the­atre.

Had Aus­tralia’s tar­get been 299, not 399, the num­ber of spec­ta­tors hav­ing fa­tal heart at­tacks might have ex­ceeded the one in 1882, when the Ashes were cre­ated (1877 was the date of the first Test).

It was ap­pro­pri­ate Paine was given out when he mis­tak­enly asked for a re­view: Aus­tralia’s cap­tain lagged far be­hind his coun­ter­part in his acu­men when re­quest­ing re­views. Paine’s fellow Tas­ma­nian, Wade, was em­barked on a semis­toke­sian in­nings un­til, af­ter scor­ing 117 – his fourth Test cen­tury – off 166 balls, he ran at Root’s off-break and was stumped. Two catches by Root himself – the sec­ond ex­cep­tional – gave Leach the last two wick­ets off con­sec­u­tive balls and fig­ures to treasure.

This re­sult was suit­able for Trevor Bayliss, who ended un­beaten in a home Test se­ries as head coach, and presided over the World Cup vic­tory as well. He goes down as bet­ter than any English head coach but, as Eng­land won away Test se­ries only in South Africa and Sri Lanka, not bet­ter than the Zim­bab­weans Dun­can Fletcher and Andy Flower.

It may seem strange that this se­ries will not sim­ply be seen as shared with honours even; but hold­ing the Ashes has al­ways been the pri­mary ob­jec­tive.

The myth was as an­ti­quated as medieval war­fare when it was cre­ated – this seiz­ing the body of English cricket, cre­mat­ing the Ashes and tak­ing the urn to Aus­tralia – but no rea­son why it should be up­dated to be like all other, sub­se­quent, in­ter­na­tional sports. This con­test, af­ter all, is vi­brantly alive.

Rea­sons to be cheer­ful: Joe Root and Eng­land re­flect on win­ning the fi­nal Test (left) while Aus­tralia cel­e­brate re­tain­ing the urn (far left)

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